The Importance of Staff Mental Health and Self-Care During a Pandemic
Featuring Danielle Budash, MHS Licensed Psychologist
To kick off the 2020-21 school year, the Milton Hershey School Elementary Division Psychological Services team provided training for teachers centered around the importance of self-care and mental health. As part of the training, teachers were introduced to six elements of self-care or whole-body wellness: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, and professional.
“We felt that this was an important topic given that we are all faced with doing our jobs to the best our ability in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Danielle Budash, MHS Licensed Psychologist, said.
Elementary Division teachers were encouraged to complete a monthly self-care assessment as well as develop a daily maintenance routine. To encourage the self-care assessment, administrative staff created a self-care challenge in collaboration with this workshop.
“We introduced a monthly self-care bingo,” Tara Valoczki, MHS Elementary Division Principal, said. “Teachers can pick from a variety of activities that focus on self-care (i.e., writing in a journal, taking a walk outside, sending a positive note to someone). At the end of the month, they can hand in their winning bingo card and receive a prize associated with self-care.”
Teachers play an important role in MHS student’s lives. They spend hours with students broadening their knowledge, teaching them academic skills, and helping them grow and develop inside and outside of the classroom.
“Just as our teachers are attuned to their students’ well-being and overall functioning, students are attuned to their teacher’s well-being,” Budash said. “They can often sense how the teacher is feeling (ex: stressed, frustrated, sad, angry, disengaged). These feelings can unintentionally influence a student’s academic performance, motivation, confidence/self-esteem as well as mood and emotional functioning.”
MHS offers a variety of Adult Wellness programs to address whole-body wellness. Many of these programs include incentives for employees while improving physical, mental, and emotional well-being. MHS also offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which includes a range of psychological services to address everyday life and mental health issues.
“I think one of the most important things teachers, as well as all adults on campus, can do is support one another, give grace when needed, and encourage self-care practices, especially as we navigate this challenging time,” Budash said.